Going, going, gone! Historic wall around Golden Temple on verge of extinction

Experts suggest integrated plans for conservation of Amritsar’s heritage

Going, going, gone! Historic wall around Golden Temple on verge of extinction

The remains of the historic wall in Amritsar. Photo: Sunil Kumar

Neeraj Bagga

Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, NOVEMBER 18

Even as the government has spruced up a couple of gates to revive their heritage look, but the historic wall around the Golden Temple has almost disappeared. Over 200 years old historical wall around the city struggles to maintain its heritage character. Now, only vestiges can be spotted.

Laxmi Kanta Chawla, former minister, Punjab

Has the government usurped the historic wall? It may be claiming to elevate the city to a smart one, but the reality is something else. The reality of squalid condition prevailing in the city is visible behind the wall, which is being given a facelift. Many shops have emerged by eliminating the wall

Laxmi Kanta Chawla, former Punjab minister, said: “Has the government usurped the historic wall? It may be claiming to elevate the city to a smart one but the reality is something else. The reality of squalid condition prevailing in the city is visible behind the wall, which is being given a facelift. Many shops have emerged by eliminating the wall.”

Prof Dr Balvinder Singh, a conservation spatial planner and former head of Guru Ram Das School of Planning of GNDU, said, “No doubt, the wall is in complete neglect, it is encroached, broken from many places and even structures have been erected on it.” He stressed that a solution must be sought with which not only the wall, but also the character of the walled city can be protected. “Short-term solution is to establish Heritage Advisory Committee, Amritsar, on the pattern of Shimla Heritage Advisory Committee,” he suggested.

At the same time there is a need to enact ‘Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings Act, Punjab’ on the pattern of British legislation.

This can be used for all historic cities if we want to conserve our historic towns for the future generations. Ad hoc approach should be stopped and an integrated conservation plan should be prepared and implemented as per the legislation which is suggested.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh took the administrative control of the city in 1804 and started constructing the wall in 1821.

With the advice from Mohammad Yar Khan, building officer Ganesha Das initiated the works from Katra Maha Singh. In 1824, Sardar Desa Singh Majithia was deployed as in-charge of the project. Eminent landlord Ramnand (whom Maharaja used to call Baba ji and named a garden after him) gave Rs 7 lakh for it.

Even Maharaja Sher Singh granted Rs 5.70 lakh after Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s demise. After getting control of Punjab, the British resumed the work on gates.

In 1884, they increased the height of the wall to 12 yards and reshaped the gates and constructed police posts.

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